The BFG (which stands for The Big Friendly Giant) was easily my most anticipated movie of 2016. I mean it was directed by Steven Spielberg, who many know to be my favorite director of all time and it was adapted from the book of the same name, written by Ronald Dahl who’s books made to movies have usually been excellent (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Fantastic Mr. Fox, James and the Giant Peach and Matilda). It was a recipe for greatness.
Unfortunately The BFG instead is the biggest disappointment of the year and Spielberg’s worst movie, since 1991’s Hook.
The film bears less resemblance to Spielberg’s childhood classic E.T. and more resemblance to Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, which contained dazzling visual effects but lacked a heart at the centre of its core. It felt like in both cases that either director (both who I am massive fans of) were not giving it their all and were bowing down to what Disney wanted the films to look like. In no way at all is this a traditional Spielberg film.
The BFG does have it is high spots though.
As I mentioned above the visual effects are dazzling and will for sure catch the eye of any young audience member. The art direction is also most excellent here, bringing to life the whacky world of Giant Country which pops with colors and stunning prop pieces. Also I can’t go without mentioning the performance of Mark Rylance (fresh off his Best Supporting Actor win for last year’s Spielberg gem Bridge of Spies) as the BFG himself, who gives one of the top tier motion capture performances to date, bringing the giant to live not only in movement but in facial expressions as well.
However what ultimately sinks The BFG is its screenplay from the late E.T. writer Melissa Mathison (who passed away last year). The story just moves along without ever giving us time to actually care about these characters. The movie starts right away with the BFG capturing the little girl named Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) without really giving us any set up. The story contains a very strong anti-bullying message, but it is presented in such a goofy way that it gets lost in the silliness.
The third act of the film is truly appallingly awful, which contains an appearance from the Queen and a scene that was horribly unfunny and cringe worthy. Frankly I think it might actually be the worst scene in Spielberg’s career (which is saying something when you consider anything from 1941, the gymnastic scene in The Lost World or the baseball scene in Hook).
Another poor choice in screenplay is an extremely offensive scene at the mid way mark of the movie. It shows young Sophie doing an act that is in stunning poor taste and could be disastrous if young kids were to try this at home. A very poor choice and an scene that should have never made it to final cut.
So The BFG becomes the great disappointment of 2016, a movie that should have been pure magic and another childhood classic from the greatest director of all time. Instead it is a film that is strictly for the very young, viewers and one that may be better suited for home viewing, were you can take breathers from the films 2 hour running length.
This is the first major disappointment I have seen from Steven Spielberg in theatres and I am hoping the last. Even the greatest directors take missteps once in a while and The BFG is a perfect example of that.